Reeves, Hood and Hood are moving toward the 2019 governor’s election. Reeves is the likely frontrunner for Republican Party and Hood is the leading candidate for Democratic Party. As they have done in the past with Mississippi Today, Mississippi Today reporters researched and provided context to several candidates’ statements on health care, employment, and social services. You can see that cops are in danger when they arrest people with mental illness. They then put them in jail, where they don’t belong, where they’re housing people.” Fact Check: Although cops can’t place mentally ill persons in jail unless they have committed a crime, many advocacy groups have criticised Mississippi for “warehousing” mentally ill residents who were arrested in county jails. Late 2016, 114 defendants waited in county jails to be allowed one of the 35 beds in Mississippi State Hospital’s Forensics Unit. The average wait time was 11 years. According to a December ProPublica Report, some have waited as long as four years. Since the 1980s, this unit has not seen an increase in size or been modernized. Tomie Green, a Hinds County senior circuit judge, said that between 30 and 40 percent of criminal defendants she faces struggle with mental illness. The Department of Mental Health closed 500 psychiatric beds across the state over the past decade in an effort transitioning care to the community. But advocates claim the resources have not followed. The Department of Justice sued Mississippi in September 2016 for not providing adequate care for its mentally ill residents. The department’s budget has been cut by $14 million since then. “We have seen problems with our crime laboratory. If your husband is killed, you will need a death certificate in order to collect your insurance. The crime lab is so overloaded because we can’t hire enough people to do autopsies. It’s been there for a year. Fact check: Some parts of this statement are incorrect. Mississippi’s death certificates are issued only by the county coroner and not by the office of the medical examiner, which is part the crime laboratory. Finalized autopsy reports are what the Medical Examiner’s Office issues. This was due to an overstaffing problem that reached up to one year ago. Sharon Grisham Stewart, Hinds County Coroner says that this backlog does not often impact how death certificates will be issued. Stewart stated that even when delays occur, they are very rare. The Legislature also increased staffing at the Medical Examiner’s Office, almost tripling its budget from $487,000 in the last session to $1.2 million. Hood pointed out that the state crime laboratory is still underfunded and, as such, it is understaffed. Chris Wise (the lab’s chief of technical assistance) stated that several employees have left for better pay in other states. “We could have extended (Medicaid) or kept emergency rooms open like the one in Houston. They’re now closed. Our emergency room was closed. This is our point of view. This is our perspective. Hood’s remarks about the high number of emergency rooms in hospitals are difficult to evaluate. The Department of Health began to track hospital data only in the 1980s, and the State Hospital Association stated that it didn’t have any emergency room data. It is therefore impossible to determine the number of Mississippi emergency rooms in 1940. Hospital emergency rooms are subject to a lot of strain from caring for uninsured people. This is well documented. 1986 federal law prohibits hospitals from refusing care to uninsured or poor patients on the basis of their inability to pay. As a result, a large portion of uninsured hospital care is provided through the emergency room. The Affordable Care Act’s Medicaid expansion was designed to increase the number of patients who are insured. It is not clear if this would lead to an increase in emergency rooms. California has the lowest per capita number of hospital emergency rooms in the country, despite having expanded Medicaid in 2014. “They (Republican leaders), came in with another tax cut of $418M… Guess how much goes to large, outside-of-state companies? 78 percent. They didn’t help main streets merchants in our state…That’s what frustrates me the most. They don’t seem to care about regular workers.” The misleading statement regarding the percentage of tax cuts going out of state is inaccurate. Hood does admit that the 78 percent figure is true, but it does not reflect the $418 million reduction. The state collected $278million from corporate franchise taxes in fiscal 2016. This is being phased out. The Magnolia State collected 78 percent of that $278 million from companies whose headquarters are outside the state. “I shared my core beliefs about how to grow our economy when I asked for your lieutenant governor. First, we need a fiscally prudent government. We now have a balanced budget with nearly $350 million saved for the rainy day. Our eight-year-old run will be over with less debt than it started. Fact check: The 2016 law that allowed special funds to be swept into the general fund, which is money that state agencies collect and keep for specific purposes, was passed by the Legislative Leadership in 2016. According to the Legislative Budget Office, the special fund sweep provided lawmakers with the extra $100 million needed to balance the budget for fiscal year 2016. Thousands of millions have continued to flow into the general fund every year since then, according to figures. Reeves said: “We need a tax code that’s fair, flat, and encourages economic growth, not discourages it.” We passed the biggest tax cut in Mississippi history. This reduced taxes for all Mississippians and job creators. Fact check: Reeves refers to individuals who have been minimally assisted in Mississippi. The lowest bracket of the individual income tax was eliminated by lawmakers. This means that Mississippians will pay $150 less per year in state income taxes for the first $5,000 of taxable income, once the entire tax cut has been implemented by 2022. Reeves pointed out that the tax cut will be most beneficial to job creators, particularly those based in Mississippi. Corporations pay a franchise fee, which is a tax on having capital invested in the state at a rate $2.50 per $1,000 of assets. These companies will start this year and pay 25c per $1,000 in assets every year until the rate reaches zero in 2028._x000D
According to Department of Revenue figures, $215.9 Million — 78% — of the $278,000,000 in franchise tax collections for fiscal year 2016 was accounted by out-of-state businesses. Only 22 percent of the total came from companies located in-state. “High school graduation rates rose from 70.5 percent up to more than 82 percent. Our early childhood initiative is a national model. We needed to increase literacy rates. Fourth grade gate scores reveal that Mississippi’s 10-year growth rate has outperformed 48 other states. The nation has also seen significant improvements in its graduation rate. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, the national graduation rate for public high schools students was 84% in the school year 2015-16. This is the highest rate since 2010-11 when the rate was first calculated. Mississippi’s graduation rate is still below the national average at 82 percent. According to the NCES, Louisiana has the lowest graduation rate of the four neighboring states (79%) Mississippi is also one of 11 states that has a 100% graduation rate. Reeves is right about fourth grade testing scores. The National Assessment of Education Progress (NAEP), April scores, showed that Mississippi students had improved in reading, while other states experienced declines. According to the Mississippi Department of Education, the state was fourth for fourth-grade math gains and second for fourth grade reading gains. The Nation’s Report Card is a test that assessed fourth- and eighth-grade students in math and reading. Both grades saw improvement in reading scores, but math scores remained the same. Mississippi continues to score below national averages in both subjects. Similar to the national trend, Mississippi’s white students outperformed hispanic and black students. Carey Wright, the State Superintendent, stated that Mississippi’s scores are showing progress but that there is still more work to be done to ensure all children have the chance to excel. Reeves: “Teachers received $350M more over the past four years. I am looking forward to granting teachers more funding in the future. We have supported schools that were trying to innovate in teaching. We’ve also supported more options for children who were trapped in failing schools districts. We’ve also supported taking politics out local schools by getting rid elected superintendents.” Fact check. In 2014, Gov. Phil Bryant signed legislation increasing salaries for teachers, but the state ranks among the lowest for annual salary. The base salary for a first-year teacher at the lowest level certification was $34,390 in 2018-19. However, many districts supplement their teachers’ salaries. In 2016, a bill was passed to eliminate elected superintendents. At that time, 38 percent of state’s public schools had elected leaders and not appointed. The Legislature has been active in recent years in school choice legislation, which allows students to attend private schools with public school funds. Reeves and supporters say this gives parents the freedom to choose what is best for their child. In 2015, legislation was passed to create Education Scholarship Accounts. These scholarships offer up to $6500 per year in state funds to students who are eligible for private school tuition. These scholarships are designed to help parents with children with special needs that feel their child would benefit from private school tuition. Mississippi Today reported earlier this year that private schools receiving ESA funds used public schools to provide special education services. This is criticized by critics who claim it amounts to taxpayers paying twice for these students. A bill to expand the state’s ESA program was defeated in the Senate this year. The Legislature created the Achievement School District in 2016. This bill would have removed local control from failing schools districts and placed them under state leadership. Although the district was to be launched in 2018-19, the Mississippi Department of Education has yet not placed any schools in the district. A superintendent has also not been hired. You might have heard that I drove a lot people mad at the Capitol. Special interests have been manipulating the system for far too long to increase their tax dollars. “I’m not their guy, because I’m willing make enemies to protect taxpayers,” Reeves’ campaign finance reports and those of many other elected officials contain donations from special interests groups, PACs representing large corporations and executives of some the largest Mississippi companies as well as lobbyists. He proposed a broad infrastructure plan in the 2018 legislative session. It would have established an advisory board made up of seven members of Mississippi interest groups that would have advised the governor about which bridge and road projects to fund. He was the driving force behind the 2016 franchise tax reduction that greatly benefited many corporations, many of which are located outside of Mississippi. To support this important work, you can make a regular donation to the Spring Member Drive today. Our reporters give a human face to policy’s impact on everyday Mississippians by listening more closely and understanding their communities. To ensure that our work is aligned with the priorities and needs of all Mississippians, we are listening to you. Click the button below to let us know what you think.